It’s been tough.
Mind you, I did the same as many of you have when the Chargers decided to toy with the idea of leaving San Diego, their home for 55 years. I started to disassociate myself from being a Chargers fan. I stopped actively watching games. The one Charger cap I owned stayed in its place save for one Sunday, that game where the Chargers decided to lie down for a ‘Super Bowl hangover’ subpar Denver team. All the same, the slow separation from the team I grew up cheering didn’t make that fated announcement any easier.
I was raised a Charger fan thanks to my father, a Pee-Wee football coach and full-time football fan. I spent a Halloween as a Charger, watched the 1994 Super Bowl bound team flail against an all-world 49ers team and grew up cheering on the Bolts towards a 14-2 2006 season, a dreary loss against the Patriots in the 2007 AFC Championship Game and a miraculous game against the Colts in the 2008 postseason.
What’s more is this: I’m not a San Diegan. I’m from the Imperial Valley. Usually I relate this to denizens of San Diego in the following dialogue:
“I’m from the Valley.”
“The sign on the 8 freeway that says El Centro? Yeah, there.”
The Imperial Valley is a collection of towns and cities within a 10-20 minute drive of each other, smack in the middle of the desert. We’re most known for our agriculture and are generally referred to as a “small border town” in your evening news. Growing up, many of my classmates saw San Diego as the city of opportunity. San Diego was the city you aim for to get out of the Valley and to start your life, only to end up back in the Valley 2 years later when you either A) wash out of college or B) find out you can’t rent a shoebox in El Cajon on a part time job without 4 other roommates. San Diego always represents that enduring hope that there is something bigger and better than the Imperial Valley, even if that hope is (usually) blind and disregards the Valley for all the simple pleasantries and ease of living it offers. The Valley is also a bandwagon paradise; Raiders, Cowboys, Panthers, 49ers, Dodgers, Giants, Yankees, Red Sox, you name it, there’s a fan of it here. Being a Padres fan here is a solitary existence; a Charger fan slightly less so. San Diego is where my teams were, just over the mountains.
So with the announcement of Dean Spanos taking his ball to an over-crowded and considerably less fine city, I decided to renounce my fanhood to the Chargers just the same as many of you have. With that renouncement I have decided to double down on the Padres and focus most of my fanhood on the team that isn’t leaving San Diego anytime soon. While we won’t have the best season (by most projections), at least the Padres will remain in San Diego, where they belong...where they’re wanted.
I’ve also decided to stop actively watching football as a whole. Without a team to cheer on, I’ve lost interest in a sport that is falling out of vogue for myriad reasons. This is the sport where lack of care with player safety and sheer ignorance of the effect of continuous damage to one’s brain led to the loss of one of the greatest Chargers to ever play: Junior Seau.
While I eagerly await the start of Spring Training for our Padres, I also wonder what the future of San Diego sports holds. I honestly couldn’t bring myself to cheer for another NFL franchise should one move to San Diego, whether it be the Jaguars (meh) or the Raiders (just can’t). Should a MLS franchise land in San Diego, I may just try to watch soccer. I could also see myself watching an NBA franchise. SDSU could also fill the football void.
What will you do with the Chargers leaving? Will you also double down on the Padres and await the future of San Diego sports? Has the loss of our NFL franchise disillusioned you towards being a fan in general? Let’s talk it out, together.